The Mind Body Connection, Mental Health Therapy and Pilates

The Christmas holiday is complete, and the New Year’s Day holiday is not quite here. The Omicron Variant has made its appearance, and I’m over it.

Not over COVID19 the virus, or an illness, or really anything medically whatsoever.

I’m really frustrated with the number of people who continue to get sick from the coronavirus.

For now, I’m focusing on how mental health therapy, physical movement, and trauma are all interconnected. It relates to COVID, as I’ll describe a little later.

I attended a seminar in November, 2021, which occured over the course of four Wednesdays. Bessel Van Der Kolk led it, and we learned quite a bit about how our minds and bodies are connected and related to trauma from his perspective. He was pretty keen on movement being a part of the healing process.

The audience was made up primarily of therapists and psychologists. There was an opportunity to say ‘hello’ to each other for about 20 minutes before each session began, during which time I generally figured out how to connect to Zoom accurately.

I didn’t ever see someone say they had a different field of work, but I was also fairly distracted with my efforts with getting connected and my anticipation of the seminar.

There were also people attending who had experienced trauma and therapy as their point of perspective.

As a mental health therapist, I provide talk therapy, play therapy, and teenage therapy. Teen therapy isn’t actually a thing, but they are one of my preferred demographics. I also enjoy, among others, adults working to improve their relationships and sense of self, and people with attention differences.

Bessel has been in the field of trauma for most of his career, and the book includes his experiences starting with war veterans, those who have experienced trauma in other ways, and how trauma can affect us from a multiple of perspectives. It also includes some groundbreaking work about treating trauma effectively.

Bessel didn’t really focus on the COVID pandemic, but did have a few statements and opinions about it and how it may be affecting those who participate in mental health therapy.

COVID is a trauma I have identified as affecting my personal, professional, and everyday life. It will likely be studied for years to come.

The last time we had a pandemic of this magnitude was over 100 years ago.

My own experiences have been a little sporadic related to COVID. I noticed that the adults I met with while providing mental health therapy during the initial months of COVID talked mostly about their stressors and things going on with them that were from a mental health perspective, or at least that was my perception.

Teens tended to be very focused on their life changes related to Covid, isolation, and lack of structured activities. Most did not seem to mind their lack of education in the spring, but really minded the way their education had been conducted in the spring, once school re-began in a more planned, online format the next fall.

The age of electronics affected isolation experiences, work-life balance, school and childcare experiences, and pretty much anything else I can think of.

Many people are talking about this current COVID experience, which I’ll refer to as the Omicron variant, related to the holidays of 2021.

I recently looked back at at a text string between my friend and me.

She’s in the medical field, and works in academia.

We were texting for quite a while. I was waiting for a person who had the option of meeting by Telehealth, and she must have had some available time.

She’s trained as a medical doctor (MD) and teaches classes and co-chairs the admissions committee at a medical school.

She was speaking from a medical point of view, and was expressing her concerns about hospital availability, her knowledge of the vaccine which included that it was related to the mRNA string of DNA, and we were wondering what effects this pandemic could have.

We talked about how she wished her son had the option of dropping off pizza at the door of places, at the pizza place where he had the potential of working.

We wondered if some of the bigger arenas for playing basketball would be shutting down, or allowing fewer people in.

We talked about how Telehealth and FaceTime meet some of those all important emotional needs we have, and wished more people would try it.

My son is in the field of IT, and was finishing his senior year of college. When she spoke of Zoom, I mentioned that Luke was using it and found it to be a pretty good alternative to face to face meetings.

Really, as I read back the other day, I really couldn’t believe how many of the things we talked about came to fruition, as well as how unaware we were of just how long these effects will last.

She is kind of like a computer. Her ability to remember information that she reads is really amazing, and she has an interest in all things medical as well as developments in the field.

She spoke of how long the vaccine for the cold virus has been studied, and that our bodies have certain immunities to it that had slowed when it was introduced. Because COVID-19 was something none of us had antibodies for, it was more deadly, but also allowed the vaccine to be completed fairly quickly.

It was really interesting to think about how that conversation and our reality have coincided.

One of the things that I did when I moved to Texas in 2019 was join Club Pilates. At that time, my childhood friend was an instructor for one close to my house, and it was a great way for me to strengthen myself, get to see her, and have something to do as I worked to gain some clients in my therapy practice.

Fast forward 2 years, and I attended a seminar where one of the focuses was how much intentional movement, like Yoga, Pilates, or something like that, helps with mental health, especially when combined with talk therapy.

I have increased to doing 3 Pilates classes a week, and am much stronger than when I began classes in July of 2019

At that time, I was experiencing quite a bit of back pain. I fell from my bike in April of 2020, and re-Injured my left ankle, which has never been my best ligament. I also have some. chronic shoulder pain, from being dislocated multiple times, starting at the age of 5.

Through mental health therapy, physical therapy, Pilates, and multiple other social supports, I have been able to work toward and be healthier during the time of this pandemic.

I have been able to continue to see people, both in person and through Telehealth, for therapy at the group practice I joined just prior to the pandemic in 2020.

As we all experience daily ups and downs, and have feelings about our family interactions, our work life environments, and our down time, how do you help yourself remain strong mentally and physically?

How will we look back on this multi-year trauma, and work to regain a new normal, in years and generations to come?

What have you found to be helpful in setting your fears aside, and being productive at what you are working toward?

What social and emotional supports are helpful to you, and what have you found to be things you don’t want to reintegrate?

Having some friends from my high school living near me has been infinitely helpful as I have learned to live in a new state with different cultures and traffic patterns.

Using Zoom to participate in a monthly movie club with my former youth pastor, and the womens group she has led for 25 years has been one of the high points of my Monday nights.

Having a strong family support, from my husband, my twin sons, my parents, and my siblings has been something I don’t know what I would have done without.

And our dog Mosby certainly did not hurt.

I heard this Omicron variant may be very contagious but less deadly, particularly for those who are vaccinated. I have heard it may peak in a few weeks, and then drop off.

I hope and wait for the day I’m writing about how this pandemic affected us in the past tense, with restrictions a thing of the past.

It’s a nice sunny January day here as I write. Hope there’s something sunny and bright going on with you as well.


Blue Caboose Children’s Fund (BCCF): Providing Emotional, Concrete and Parental Support

A Story of a Board Member

I’m sitting here today enjoying my Mango Pomegranate Green Tea at SweetWaters Cafe in McKinney, Texas. It’s right here at the border of McKinney and Frisco, depending on what side of Custer Rd you’re on. (This is the McKinney side)

I just returned from Indiana, and as I stood in line for my tea, I surprisingly turned around to find the Mayor and his First Lady of the Crepe Myrtle Festival, who also arrange for the monthly art here at SweetWaters.

Today was a special day for me, as I’ve been here enough times to enjoy my first drink from the cafe that is a reward for my loyalty here.

As I stood in line, I met Elizabeth and Fred, who were dressed in their Mayor and First Lady gear, right out of a perfectly orchestrated play set in a quaint village. I laughed, as I have a love for all things theater, but did resist breaking out into song.

I want to give thanks to all who were able to provide support on #NTXGD (North Texas Giving Day), and also to those who were able to support Blue Caboose Children’s Fund (#BCCF) specifically.

Continue reading “Blue Caboose Children’s Fund (BCCF): Providing Emotional, Concrete and Parental Support”

Coffee, Tea, Both, or Neither?

Multiculturalism: Some Experiences Last a Lifetime

Some experiences are so powerful and meaningful, you don’t realize it for many years. And some become even more relevant as time goes on.

As a high school student, I was very involved with the youth group at my church. It started in middle school, but really took form in high school.

I got some opportunities through my church life experiences which have had an effect on me, and gave me opportunities as a teen/young adult that have helped me to continuously expand my experiences and world view.

At 17, I was able to volunteer for Habitat for Humanity in South Bend, Indiana. We hammered, took down walls, some people painted, and prepped a house to look like new as only high school students led by adults can do. It was demolition work, and probably a better fit for me than building would be.

I learned, as a primarily left-handed, but ambidextrous-ish person, that I can hammer with either hand, but it was very important to match the eye I used with the hand I was hammering with. A couple of good wacks to the thumbs reinforced that, and I think I ultimately decided my right hand was a bit better.

I also learned that turpentine takes off paint, but getting covered in paint due to being a terribly messy person is not really recommended. (The paint war probably didn’t help, but if turpentine gets off paint, wouldn’t that be irrelevant?)

Well, no…it is not meant to be bathed in, and I certainly have not made that decision or mistake with paint again.

At 18, I spent around 2-ish weeks with other high school and college students riding in vans from Indiana to join high school and college students (led by adults) just over the border of México. This event was sponsored by churches, in Indiana and Iowa, and led by Jayna from Indiana and Blake from Iowa.

We spent time at an orphanage, painting murals on walls, pulling weeds, and playing in the pool during the hot summer afternoons with the children who lived there.

We gave the gym, pool building, and general area a facelift, through painting, pulling weeds, and providing emotional support to the children and adults who resided and worked there.

We all tried to work to our personal strengths by remaining aware of the heat, self care, our own talents and skills, and the all important singing and camaraderie during evening devotions and guitar singing.

I’m an undiscovered folk singer, and when I get the opportunity to sing with a group in a key that works for me, I’m going to enjoy myself.

Although my high school French, and my not yet taken college German, were not all that helpful with communicating with the children and adults whose first language was Spanish, we did study important Spanish words and phrases during our drive to Texas to help to communicate in Spanish with the children and adults who worked or lived at the orphanage.

We learned that ‘trabajo’ means ‘work’, and ‘Conta Cuesta Es’ means ‘How much is’…..?

The ‘how much is?’ Question helped for our trip to Monterey where we did a little shopping and bartering for items toward the end of the trip, where we went once we left Reynosa.

We learned that ‘tango hambre’ means ‘to have hunger’ and most importantly to me: ‘donde esta el bano’, or where is the bathroom?. This is a phrase I use in my self talk to this day when looking for a restroom.

We stopped midway in DFW, the Dallas/Fort Worth area, as it is just about the mid-point between Mexico and Tipton, Indiana; as well as a good meet up point with our new friends from Iowa.

During the hot afternoons, we cooled off in the pool. Keep away was a huge favorite of the children who used the pool to cool down from hot summer days, and also a favorite of mine, a trained life guard who also loves to play and have fun.

I learned that ‘a qui’ means ‘here;’. They used it to mean ‘give me the ball’ or ‘I’m open’.

I learned ‘alto!’. Which means ‘stop’. I would yell ‘a key!’ A key!’, which sounds the same, and frequently got me, the object of the keep away, the ball. The children then yelled ‘alto! Alto!’ To tell each other to stop saying ‘a qui’.

I vaguely remember playing where those of us who had traveled in from the US played against the children and those who lived there, but it has been quite a few years. I also have played a lot of alto saxophone in my life, so I probably tuned into that word fairly quickly.

I learned that if I yelled ‘alto!’, sometimes that made the person stop and look.

Lots of fun was had in Reynosa by those of us who spoke English, Spanish, and sometimes a combination of the two.

At age 19, I traveled to France near the border of Switzerland, with my sister to be a part of a multi-cultural experience with 16-21 year olds.

Friends from Ireland; both Catholic and Protestant, who in 1990 did not have a history of peacefully co-existing; England (Bath), Czechoslovakia (now known as the Czech Republic); East Germany, West Germany (who had just joined to be Germany), Norway, and many youth from France attended. The East and West Germans were experiencing very different economic times including costs prior to their merge, and the people from those countries shared first hand the experiences they were having.

They spoke of movie prices, which had been somewhere around $3 in East Germany, compared to $10 in West Germany. When the merge occurred, the country had one price for movies, which was the West German price. Our friends from East Germany related the struggles with the quick inflation and how that had personally affected their families.

I had just taken 2 semesters of German at Indiana University (a 4 credit class, taught by a woman who would later teach me about Women in German History) which for my American ear was easier to hear.

I learned that each of the other countries participating taught English in primary school, when, as our friends taught my sister and me, we are more able to learn it.

Learning a different language after the age of 12 is much more difficult, so my sister and my experience learning Spanish/French (for her), and French/German for me set us far behind our friends in terms of speaking their language (whatever that might be) fluently, and each of them spoke English to an extent that far out-performed our efforts at speaking their first language.

All instructions were stated in German, French, and then English. We had an activity each day, and worked to clear a 5k trail. We had a talent show where I accompanied on piano as my friend from Bath sang ‘The Long and Winding Road’, by the Beatles.

I do not remember my own talent, but do remember a couple of girls playing the recorder, which is not an especially easy instrument to play well.

Sarah, from Bath, incidentally did not like carbonation in her soda. She clarified, each time she made her Coke ‘flat’; that this was not a product of Bath, England. It was her preference, as a resident of Bath.

I learned from one of my Irish friends that when I asked ‘should I wear pants?’, in regard to temperature, that her chuckle came from the fact that those with her Irish dialect called ‘pants’ what my sister and I referred to as ‘underwear’.

It was amusing to me that she had thought I asked such a personal question, and I have referred to those shorts with longer legs as ‘long pants’ ever since.

I also learned, fast forwarding to 2018 when ‘23 and Me’ became popular, that approximately 97% of my genes come from Northern Europe, most specifically from Ireland.

I have olive skin, which is reminiscent of the skin of those with Spanish heritage (among others). My parents have a long history of lovingly arguing about who is more Irish on St. Patrick’s Day.

My cousin loves to tell a story about our Great Grandfather, who left Ireland for America due to his parents’ refusal to let him marry his maid.

We don’t know who he married, but he married someone and had children in America. I have always respected this great-grandfather whom I have never met; due to his integrity and tenacity about following his heart and his refusal to follow a class system assigned to him.

My mother’s family, in Ireland, was Irish Catholic; and my dad’s family, in Ireland, was also Irish Catholic. My mom was raised Methodist (Protestant), and my sister, brother and I were also raised Protestant (Methodist, and then Christian: Disciples of Christ). I attended church with my friends during sleepovers throughout school, and in college attended the local Catholic Church full of students and 2 young priests.

Two of my best friends in elementary school were being raised Baha’i, which promotes unity and works peace.

1990, France:

My sister and I described, matter of factly, that our mom is Protestant and our dad is Catholic. Our two friends, who worked at the holiday resort where we ate all three meals of the day, were incredulous that this could occur.

An experience in Belfast had caused quite a bit of trauma in our Irish friend with the pony tail (even then, terrible with names). Our Irish friend with the bob-length hair was less shocked, but did describe how our other friend’s family had urgently gone to the other side of the wall during the unrest in Belfast regarding religion, and not all of her family had survived.

Last week, as I continue to check the genetics as more and more people participate in ancestry testing, I learned that I had a 3% chance of having olive skin.

3. Per Cent.

As I child, once I learned in biology about dominant and recessive genes, I called myself ‘very recessive’ because I did not look like my family.

I have been complimented for my tan skin tone for much of my life, as I say ‘thank you’ and wonder how to avoid the tan lines that appear if I go outside for more than a little bit.

As a 51 year old, I checked my ancestory results again and saw that 3% chance of being olive skinned, as more and more people of my descent are getting their ancestry results to understand our origins.

As you think about your culture, and different life experiences that have helped you to form your own systems of values and beliefs, what are some ways you have been affected that help you to be open and non-judgemental of those who may speak a different language, have different values and life experiences, or may have different skin tones or hair textures from you and the people in your life?

What are ways that you would like to promote peacefulness during a time where there has been so much unrest?

What is a goal you have, that you can do within the next few days, or month, or even season to help your life feel more peaceful?

Is your goal to make a goal?

I’m excited to be having some different life experiences than I had planned for, and was very reticent to experience.

I hope your day goes as well as it can, and that you have some positive interactions with yourself and others this week

To read an article I posted on ‘Thrive Global’, Click below. That article discusses my trip to France to promote World Peace, where I learned about culture, met some great friends, and recognized some of my privilege.

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